Alternative Therapies for Horses

Alternative therapies for horses are becoming increasingly more popular amongst owners, with many different choices now available. It should be remembered, though, that they should be used in conjunction, and not as a replacement, with traditional veterinary treatment and diagnosis.

Here is a look at three popular alternative therapies – acupuncture, chiropractic and equine sports massage.

Even healthy horses can benefit from alternative therapies.


What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture was developed by the ancient Chinese over 3,000-years-ago and recognized as being an extremely useful treatment for a variety of conditions in horses. It involves the stimulation of certain points on the horse’s body (acupoints), where there are large amounts of nerve endings, blood vessels, and lymph nodes, helping to ease pain and treat or prevent disease.

When to use acupuncture

Most types of medical conditions combined with veterinary treatment can benefit from acupuncture. These include:

  • Muscle soreness and stiffness
  • Back pain
  • Lameness
  • Arthritis
  • Navicular syndrome
  • Tendon/ligament injuries
  • Muscle, bone and joint injuries
  • Digestive problems
  • Respiratory conditions
  • Neurological conditions
  • Reproduction problems
  • Weak immunity

It is generally not used for:

  • Malignant tumours
  • Fractures
  • Infectious diseases
  • Organ failure

Before treatment commences, the acupuncturist will ask about your horse’s symptoms and its usual daily routine. They will then check the tongue and carry out an examination of the whole body to identify trigger points.

An example of acupuncture needles.

The techniques of acupuncture include:

  • Dry-needles: A thin, sterile needle is inserted into the acupoint. The needles are of various lengths and widths, and each one stimulates tiny nerve endings, sending messages to the brain to either ease the pain or send other hormones and chemicals to the body. It is often used with other acupuncture techniques.
  • Electro-acupuncture: A long, dry needle is inserted and attached to a wire connected to an electro-acupuncture machine. Gentle electrical pulsations are delivered through the needle generating nerve stimulation and muscle contraction. This produces a more effective stimulation than a dry-needle alone, and is often used for sore backs.
  • Hemo-acupuncture: Blood is drawn from the acupuncture point with a hypodermic needle. It releases heat from the body and is used for neurological conditions and to help boost the immune system.
  • Aquapuncture: Liquid, usually Vitamin B12, sterile water, or saline solution, is injected into the acupuncture point, producing constant stimulation from the pressure. This is often used for soreness, back pain, and lack of energy, or for horses that will not stay still for usual needling.
  • Moxibustion: The warming of an acupoint using the crushed, dried leaves of the herb Artemisia vulgaris (commonly known as mugwort), which is rolled into a cigar-like cylinder. It is burned and held over the skin or placed onto an acupuncture needle already inserted into the acupoint, stimulating the area. This is often used for treating arthritis.
  • Tuina medical manipulation: The acupuncturist uses their hands and fingers, instead of needles, to apply constant pressure for 1 to 5 minutes on each acupoint. It is often used for joint conditions such as arthritis and for back problems and it can also assist the internal organs.
  • Pneumo-acupuncture: Sterilised air is injected into the acupoint creating an air bubble within the tissues, stimulating the area. This is a useful treatment for muscle wastage.
  • Laser stimulation: A painless laser beam is used instead of a needle to stimulate the acupoints difficult to treat areas such as the head and legs. It is held over the area for up to two minutes and has been proven to be as effective as needles.

Who should carry out acupuncture?

Acupuncture, by law, can only be carried out on a horse by a qualified veterinary surgeon trained in this practice. When performed correctly, it is extremely safe and often used alongside chiropractic treatment.

Chiropractic Treatment

What is chiropractic treatment?

Chiropractic treatment is concerned with problems related to the horse’s back and other areas of the body that may have caused misalignments to the spine.

The practice concentrates on the connection between structure (the vertebral column) and function (the nervous system). Horses were not made to carry a rider, so when they do, they use their muscles in an unnatural way. Correct schooling and a good, balanced rider can help strengthen the horse, but this isn’t always the case and it isn’t always enough, so problems often occur.

Beautiful horse getting adjusted by Dr. Heidi Bockhold.

The chiropractor deals with vertebral subluxation complexes (VSCs) and will look for the underlying cause of the problem. By using quick forces to a joint or bone with their hands, the structures are brought back into alignment by the chiropractor, eliminating the source of the pain.

When to use chiropractic treatment

Often when a vet is unable to find the cause of a horse’s lameness, they will recommend the services of a chiropractor. Conditions related to the back can often be the reason for abnormalities in the gait.

Ridden horses, especially those in competition, are recommended to have routine checks so that any problems are discovered before they become a major issue.

Signs that your horse needs a chiropractor are as follows:

  • When a horse has had a fall
  • Changes in behaviour
  • Showing resistance such as bucking, rearing and tail swishing
  • Uneven gaits
  • Stiffness
  • Pinning ears back and biting when being saddled or groomed
  • Holding tail to one side
  • Difficulty performing lateral work
  • Head tossing
  • Bolting
  • Asymmetrical in hips or shoulders
  • Chronic weight loss
  • Lameness
  • Difficulty in picking up correct canter leads

Chiropractic treatment should not be carried out on a horse that may have a fracture as it could result in a greater injury.

Horse and rider can both benefit from chiropractic treatment.

Who should carry out chiropractic treatment?

Some vets are trained as equine chiropractors, offering their services in this area. Many chiropractors treat both humans and horses so can help the rider as well, as their posture may affect the way they ride their horse. Only use a chiropractor that is qualified and experienced, with an excellent reputation.

Before carrying out treatment, the chiropractor requires the history of the horse and gives the horse a full examination. They will first observe the standing horse, looking for any irregularities in its posture, asymmetry, discomfort indicators and muscle wastage.

Next, the spine will be scrutinized, looking for any heat or swelling, asymmetry, and structural abnormalities. Afterwards, the gait is analyzed, which is the most important part of the examination. The chiropractor assesses spine mobility and pelvic movement so they can distinguish between back pain and problems in the limbs. Lastly, a test is carried out for a full range of movement on each joint. The chiropractor may also want to see the horse ridden and may check the fit of the saddle and bridle.

Some chiropractors complement their treatment with other therapies such as acupuncture, massage, stretches, and infra-red lights.

Equine Sports Massage

What is equine sports massage?

Equine sports massage consists of manipulating the horse’s skin and muscles with the hands and fingers of a masseur.

In need of a good massage.

The benefits are:

  • Relieves tension
  • Relaxes the muscles
  • Develops muscle tone
  • Increases and improves blood circulation
  • Improves coat
  • Allows more freedom of movement
  • Eases pain
  • Improves immunity
  • Prevents injuries

During a session, each muscle is massaged separately using different techniques, and finished with stretches.

The methods employed are:

  • Effleurage: This is always used first and last on the horse, using one or both hands, in a firm stroking motion, following the direction of the coat. Effleurage improves the venous and lymphatic flow and helps the horse relax.
  • Petrissage: Compression using hands and fingers on the muscle. The two main techniques are kneading and finger compressions. With kneading, the hand is in a relaxed fist shape, making circular motions, on a large muscle mass range. Finger compressions target a specific area using the pads of the fingers in a circular motion. Petrissage is used to improve circulation and soften the muscle tissues.
  • Tapotement: A double-handed technique employed in a quick and rapid way, using gentle contact on large muscle masses. The two techniques are hacking and clapping. Hacking involves the sides of the fingertips and hands and clapping requires the hands to be cupped. Tapotement improves circulation and muscle tone. It is a useful method for warming up the horse’s muscles before work, especially at competitions.

Passive stretches are carried out on the horse once the muscles are softened, depending on the patient’s needs. These are made slowly, helping to maintain the suppleness and flexibility of the horse’s muscles and range of movement. The masseur may show you how to do them yourself so that they can be done regularly after exercise when the horse’s muscles are warm.

Horse experiencing a healing massage with a vet.

Signs that your horse needs equine sports massage therapy include:

  • Sore back
  • Uneven gait
  • Cold back
  • Sensitive to grooming and saddling
  • Knocking or refusing jumps
  • Bucking after jumps
  • Not staying straight over jumps
  • Hollowing back
  • Bucking and rearing
  • Head shaking or tilting
  • Tripping and stumbling

Regular massages and stretching, alongside correct riding and schooling, cansignificantly help and improve your horse’s health.

Massage should not be carried out if the horse is experiencing any of the following:

  • Following an accident
  • Colic
  • Dehydration
  • Skin problem
  • Disease
  • Cancerous areas
  • Pregnant mare
  • Open wounds
  • Fractures

Who should carry out equine sports massage?

Your vet should either refer you to or recommend a qualified equine sports masseur once they have decided that this type of therapy is beneficial for your horse.

Unlike other treatments, massage looks at the whole horse. The masseur will carry out an assessment and will need to know your horse’s history. They will look at the confirmation and action, breed, type of work, teeth, and the horse’s feet and shoeing, along with a check of the saddle.

This horse is healthy and athletic thanks to alternative therapies.

The masseur will watch the horse, lead in hand, walk and trot on a straight line and may also require seeing it lunged and ridden before treatment commences.

After the treatment, a good masseur will help you work out a training program for your horse which may consist of schooling, lunging, long reining and pole work alongside the massage therapy.

Picking the Right Procedure for You

You should always consult with your vet before making a treatment decision for your horse. Make sure to tell them all of your horse’s possible symptoms and they will help you figure out the best plan. If one of the treatment options discussed in this article stands out to you, take your horse to the vet and see what they suggest and if they can refer you to any licensed professionals in your area.

Alison O’Callaghan is a professional horse riding instructor and has owned many types of pets. When she is not riding horses or walking her dog, she loves to write about animals. If you’d like to contact Alison, you can email her at

What to Look For In A Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

Alpha Quadrant YPS Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

Vessa, relaxing in the Alpha Quadrant at Your Pet Space

Dave and I have had dogs all our lives–and long before we went into the profession of caring for dogs, we needed to board ours, once in awhile.  We tried a couple of places…and had some variation in experiences.  As you might imagine, we can tell you about even more that others have had, now that we are in the business, ourselves.  It wasn’t actually until we were going through training to have our own facility that we understood what exactly had happened when our dogs came home tired, stressed and somehow just…different.  So, if you’ve ever experienced any of the issues mentioned below, it might be time to consider a change for your dog.  The first thing you’ll want to do is set up a time to tour a prospective new facility.  Note that although some areas may be off limits on a tour due to reasonable liability issues if you were injured, you should be allowed to see most areas where your dog will be staying, when you ask.

Things To Ask When Touring a Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

1.) Do you perform an assessment of all dogs entering your facility?  If so, which dogs are accepted or not, and why?

If the facility you’re considering accepts all dogs whether they are known to be aggressive or not, or whether they are fixed or not, you need to know this in advance.

Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

Mandy, Sollie, Julie and Joey, separated from the larger dogs at Your Pet Space

2.) Do you separate large from small dogs?  How do you determine my dog’s playgroup?  How large are your playgroups?

Size and age matter.  How your dog plays does, too.  Dogs have four playstyles–and sometimes will exhibit more than one.  So a knowledgeable facility will place your dog in a group appropriate for the way he plays–whether your dog is a puppy or a couch potato.  And there shouldn’t be more than 10 dogs or so in one playgroup.

3.)  How will my dog be introduced to the others on his first day?

No matter the dog’s age, playstyle or size, you do not want your dog overwhelmed by being thrust into a strange gaggle of dogs with no warning.  Your dog should be introduced to one dog at a time, lowest energy dog first.  After all, would you want to be shoved into the faces of a large number of unknown people in a crowded rooom?

Dave and pack, Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

Dave, supervising dogs in the Your Pet Space Milky Way area

4.)  How many people do you have supervising your playgroups?

It is simply impossible for one person to properly supervise a group of more than 15 dogs–and ideally the ratio should be 1 for every 10 dogs.  In groups of large, active dogs the proper ratio might be more like 1 to every 5.  So a lot depends on the size and activity level of the dogs. These staff members should also be inside with the dogs, not observing them with a camera or through a window.

Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

6,000 square foot indoor play area at Your Pet Space

Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

3,000 sq ft patio and front yard at Your Pet Space

5.) When and for how long does my dog get to be outside?  And where do they play when it’s too hot, cold or raining, windy, etc.

Every facility handles this differently.  Some have large interior play spaces.  Others have more outdoor space than inside.  If you dog is going to play indoors when the weather is inclement, how often will he go outside for potty time? Will he have an enclosed outdoor place to go or will someone be walking him?  If the only place to play is outdoors for most of the day, and it’s hot or cold, how will he be made comfortable?  Is there shade and are enough yard misters present to keep him cool?  Is there warm shelter outside in the winter and how long are dogs left outside?   Really think about worst case scenario, here.  Dogs should not be outside for more than a few minutes in above 100 degree weather–some breeds can only tolerate much, much less.  Some breeds don’t tolerate anything below 40 well without protection, while others are good for longer at colder temperatures.

Neutral Zone, Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

Daysha, taking a break in the Your Pet Space Neutral Zone

6.)  Will my dog get a break from playing?  If so, when and where?

Think about what your dog does at home every day.  Sure, he plays–sometimes, a lot!  But it’s likely he rests a lot, too.  And in a large facility, if your dog doesn’t have a place to rest for awhile, he’s likely to go home injured and stressed.  So ask about how this is accomplished–will your dog be crated during the rest period?  If not, where’s the nap area and–if it’s communal–how is it supervised?

7.)  How is my dog fed while he’s with you?

Some facilities do this by crating each dog with his own food.  In cage free facilities, dogs should be fed one at a time.  Only dogs from the same household that are used to eating together without showing aggression should be fed together.

8.)  When my dog boards with you, is there someone on site?  If so, where?

Most facilities do not maintain on site staff overnight.  The staff leaves the dogs in their own runs for the night and returns in the mornings for cleanup of overnight messes, and to let out and feed the dogs.  Some facilities have staff on the premises, but in a separate building or on another floor from the dog guests.  A few have staff that remain with the dogs, all night long.  No matter which you choose for your pet, be aware that groups of uncrated dogs should never be left in a facility overnight without supervision.

Dave teaching, Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

Dave re-directs Finley and London from neck biting play to playing with a toy.

9.)  If my dog’s behavior needs to be corrected, how is this accomplished?

All dogs play inappropriately from time to time.  The staff in a good facility will be trained to correct problem behavior in a positive manner–such as re-directing your dog to play a different way or with a different playmate.  Even time outs are ok, if they are brief with the purpose of cooling down an excited dog.  Brief training on the “leave it” command is great.  Hitting or the use of devices to deliver shocks are NOT okay.

Joy's CPR cert, Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

10.)  What certifications does the facility owner and staff have in animal care and safety?

Many people don’t know that several years went by during which the only animal care certifications available for our industry were simply pieces of paper you bought on the internet.  Nowadays, thanks to organizations such as the IBPSA and PACCC, and companies such as PetTech and The Dog Gurus, real training and actual certifcations are available, by means of real courses and testing centers.

11.)  Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions, such as: What if my dog is injured or becomes ill?  How to you handle dogs that climb or escape?  How many bites or fights do you see a year?  How do you prevent fights?  How do you handle a dog fight?  What is your emergency plan for this building?

Every facility should know their policies on these matters and be able to explain them.  Moreover, they should be able to show you the answer to anything you ask.

Bottom Line–What to Watch For At Your Current Dog Facility

Stress Signs In Dogs On Arrival

Your dog is reluctant to enter, when he wasn’t previously

New stress behaviors such as a tucked tail or submissive urinating

Stress Signs In Dogs When Leaving Or At Home

Your dog has rolling eyes, heavy panting or is hoarse from too much barking

Collar sensitivity–when he previously accepted his collar being handled

New concerning behaviors such as leash aggression or perimeter barking

Your dog can’t ask for himself.  Now you know what to ask for him.


Joy Jones, YPS Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

Joy Jones, Publisher, is also the Vice President of Your Pet Space, a cage free dog boarding facility serving the greater Las Cruces, NM area. Her urban fiction book Indigo was recently published. When not working at Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as humor. You can e-mail her at or follow Your Pet Space on Facebook.

Exploring Holistic Modalities for Your Pet

It is often believed that the only thing you can do to help your ailing pet is to take it to the vet and deal with the stress, fear, and large bills that come along with it. However, this does not always have to be the case. While you should always take your pet to the vet at any sign of trouble, it is also good to know that there are treatment plans available for your pet to help ease their pain and discomfort in a much more natural, soothing manner. These options include chiropractic treatment for pets, reflexology, and massage. All three of these options aim to increase the comfort and well-being of your pet, but they each have very different methods of doing so. Some of these options can be performed at home, but it is important to note that there are experienced professionals right here in Las Cruces that can assist you in improving your dog’s life. Information about those professionals and an upcoming health fair will be listed at the end of this article.

A very happy dog after receiving his treatment.

Chiropractic Treatment for Pets

Of the three techniques we will be discussing in this post, chiropractic treatment for pets is the one that you absolutely need a professional to do for you. An inexperienced person practicing chiropractic treatment can cause serious harm to your pet due to the precise nature of adjusting the spine. Do not try this one at home. That being said, chiropractic care is one of the most powerful types of natural treatments for both pets and humans. This is because chiropractors focus on realigning and adjusting the neck and spine, which corrects a multitude of problems and proves to be an excellent form of long-term therapy to keep the body as healthy and comfortable as possible.

Chiropractic treatment for pets can help alleviate problems such as hip dysplasia, weak legs, stiffness, hunched back, pain in the chest, back, or neck, and osteoarthritis. If your pet appears to be in pain, take them to the vet for a diagnosis before anything else. When you and your pet meet with a chiropractor, they will first evaluate your pet to see exactly what kind of help they need. They do this by looking at the pet’s history, vet records, and x-rays. With all of this information in mind, they will know that to look for when beginning the treatment, and will proceed to learn even more about your pet’s problem once they begin a hands-on adjustment.

A pug is happily getting adjusted.

There are many ways adjusting your pet, and each chiropractor will have their on technique. Dr. Randy Kidd explains, “The way I was taught, a chiropractic adjustment consists of the following. First, identify the specific site of the subluxation and identify the direction the joint is ‘stuck’ or ‘loose.’ The contact point (the bony part of the anatomy where the adjustment will be performed) is located, and the adjuster creates a firm contact with the underlying bone, and the patient’s body is stabilized. Then, the actual adjustment is performed by moving the hand…in the direction that is specific for the way that the joint needs to be returned to normal function.” These adjustments are mostly done with just the chiropractor’s fingertips or by using a small device called an “activator” which gently presses the bones back into place. Adjustments for dogs are quite different from adjustments for humans since dogs are much more delicate creatures that only require a gentle touch.

One trip to the chiropractor will not immediately fix the pet’s problem, but it should quickly alleviate the pain or discomfort that they may be feeling. Your chiropractor will work out a schedule with you and discuss how often your pet should be adjusted. This can be as often as twice a week, or as few as once every couple of months.

Reflexology Aides Your Pet

Reflexology is a very different form of treatment than chiropractic care. While chiropractic care treats the immediate cause of your pets discomfort, reflexology aides your pet by relaxing them, increasing their blood circulation, and by promoting balance in your pet’s system which can increase healing time.

A paw fit and ready for some reflexology.

Reflexology is performed by pressing firmly on the pads of your pet’s feet and ankles, using gentle pressure and specific circular movements to promote blood circulation and to help clear blockages in your pet’s system caused by stress or toxins. In his article, Andrew Jonasson notes that, “Toxins get into your dog by way of his food. Most commercial pet foods contain preservatives, sugar, and other additives like coloring. These foods can lead to chronic health issues like diabetes, allergies, and kidney failure…reflexology is important to cleanse your dog’s body of wastes and detoxify his organs.”

It is also believed that stress in your pet’s daily life can affect their inner workings, causing inflammation and tensed muscles throughout the body. Pets can sense when their owners are stressed and will imitate the behavior they see. This can cause long-term damage to their internal system. Reflexology aides your pet by allowing them a few moments to relax, soothe their tensed muscles, and possibly even reduce some inflammation caused by stress.

Reflexology being performed on a dog’s ankle.

While this is something you can attempt at home, it really takes a professional eye to determine where the reflexology points are on your pet, and how they correspond to their organs and to the different parts of your pet’s body. Done incorrectly, it will result in a simple foot massage that your pet may still find relaxing. Done correctly, however, a professional can help flush your pet of toxins, improve their circulation, and disperse pain in tensed muscles throughout the body.


Massage is similar to reflexology in that it is a form of treatment that can help relax a nervous pet, helps relieve muscle tension, and improve blood circulation. It also aides in digestion, provides greater joint flexibility, stimulates liver and kidney function, and strengthens the immune system. Massage is an excellent form of treatment for any pet, of any age, whether they have health issues or not. Regular massage sessions can help keep your pet in tip-top shape for as long as possible.

A relaxed dog in need of an energizing massage.

Kristina Lotz explains that, “there are a few cases where massage can be particularly helpful. Reducing stiffness and fatigue after exercise by increasing circulation and flushing waste products from the muscle tissue. Massage can be great for both before and after exercise. Invigorating massage (quick strokes) can be great for dogs that are about to compete in agility competitions or for older dogs that are stiff and about to go out for a walk in the neighborhood.” You can also use slow, relaxing strokes for older pets, pets suffering from anxiety, or energetic young pets. Massage is an excellent form of treatment for any pet, but each pet will need a different form of massage due to the varying issues they may have.

Because there are so many different ways to massage your pet and because different techniques are used for different symptoms, it is crucial to go slow and to not attempt to massage your pet like you would a human. This method is often too rough for pets and can cause more harm than good. To avoid any potential damage and to learn good techniques, you may chose to take your pet to a professional animal massage therapist to do the hard work for you.

The bond between a pet and an owner can vastly improve through these forms of treatment.

Your Pet Space Health Days

Because all of these treatment options are so important and can provide your pet with some real health benefits, Your Pet Space will be having a health fair from February 23-25, 2017 from 12:00 to 7:00 p.m by appointment. There will be doctors and technicians performing reflexology, massage, chiropractic treatment, and reiki, as well as classes discussing essential oils, flower essences, and more. These events will provide you with even more information about the importance of chiropractic care for pets, reflexology, and massage, so it is really something that you can’t miss. If you are interested in any of these classes and treatments or for more information, please call Your Pet Space at 575-652-4404 to schedule an appointment.

Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith, Associate Editor, having been raised in a household full of dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, and all things furry, Jessica’s love of animals has only grown over the years. She is currently volunteering for Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in her free time when she isn’t out and about with her ridiculous pit bull mix, Annabel Lee, or taking care of her remarkably ancient guinea pig, Moose. She is also putting her literature degree to use by working as an editor for a local online magazine, Independent Noise. While she has no plans for the future, she knows that it will be filled with fur and fiction galore. You can e-mail Jessica at

My Dog Has Allergies: Now What?

Did You Know There Are Dog Allergies?

Just like humans, dogs can have allergies to anything and everything under the sun. However, it can be much more difficult to recognize the allergens present and to find the best treatment plan for dogs than it is for humans. My precious little Staffordshire Terrier mix, Annie, has been diagnosed with severe allergies to grass, grain, and potatoes. While she is probably allergic to several other things as well, these are all we know for sure.

Our journey into the vast world of dog allergies came to be when I noticed a light pink rash on her chest just a few months after I adopted her. She has very thin fur, so it was easy to spot. My family and I thought it could be a simple heat rash because she had been outside in the sun for quite a while. We brought her inside to cool down, and wrote it off as nothing more. A few days later, it was still there and growing significantly worse. Deciding that it couldn’t be just from the heat, I took her to her vet, Animal Hospital of Las Cruces, the next day.

Annie with a severe rash and hot spots under her chin.

Diagnosis and Use of Steroids on Dogs

The vet diagnosed her with an allergy to grass and weeds and gave her a prescription for prednisone, a strong oral steroid. By the end of the week, her skin was looking as good as ever! …until the steroids wore off.

The allergies were back with a vengeance, causing terrible rashes, hives, and hot spots that made Annie so uncomfortable that she would scratch herself until she bled. After many more trips to the vet, a diagnosis of food allergies on top of the environmental allergies, and vast supplies of steroids, I realized that there had to be a better way.

While oral steroids work wonders on rashes, inflammation, and hives, the side effects can be just as prominent especially if given on a regular basis. These side effects can include ulcers, delayed healing, aggression, and diabetes. I decided that daily oral steroid use was not the route I wanted to go to help Annie’s allergies. To me, the risks did not necessarily outweigh the benefits if I could find something better.

Boxer with hives

Non-Oral Steroids

Annie and I returned to the vet one more time. We were given a topical steroid spray called Genta-Spray that could be used to help heal rashes and hives with practically zero side effects. This stuff works wonders, but only when there is already a rash present. Annie would still have to go through days of discomfort before the spray does its job. Because of this, my vet and I devolved a daily regimen for Annie to keep the rashes at bay.


Food allergies are one of the most common types of allergies found in dogs. One of the first steps in figuring out what kind of allergies your dog has is eliminating grain from the diet and changing the protein. I switched Annie to a grain-free dog food brand specifically for dog allergies called AvoDerm and her skin cleared within a few days! And then it became much worse. I rushed to the dog food professionals at Better Life Natural Pet Foods. There, they informed me that grain-free foods have a much higher percentage of potatoes than regular dog food. This is because the food needs something substantial to replace the grain and the starch of the potato does the perfect job. This lead us to believe that Annie has an allergy to both grain and potato.

Thankfully, Better Life carried one brand of dog food that is made in a factory 100% free of both grain and potato called Zignature. While it is much more expensive than a normal dog food, I immediately purchased a bag. The affect was noticeable within a few short days. Annie’s skin cleared significantly, but there was still the issue of her environmental allergies to grass and weeds.

Down to a mild rash. Progress!

Supplements and Medication

One of the most important things to do for dogs with allergies is to keep their skin as moisturized and healthy as possible. Because of this, a daily regimen of fish oil is recommended. I started Annie on a daily dose of two 1300 mg capsules of fish oil which immensely helped her skin heal faster and break out into rashes less. For proper fish oil dosing, visit the link below.

At the same time, l started Annie on a daily dose of Benadryl, upon the advise of her vet. She takes three regular Benadryl a day, one in the morning, two at night. For appropriate Benadryl dosing, see the website below. This helps keep her allergies in control and causes her rashes to be less severe. This daily regimen of medicines, avoidance of known allergens, and use of topical steroid spray when needed did a great deal in helping Annie fight off her extreme reactions, but her problems were still frequent enough that I added in one more step.


I firmly belive that this final step is what drew everything together and helped make Annie’s skin as consistently good as it is today. While Annie absolutely hates baths and anything to do with water, bathing her twice a week has made it so that she rarely gets severe rashes and when a rash is starting to appear, it vanishes quickly without causing her much discomfort. Bathing removes any environmental allergens from their skin and fur. Dogs, unlike humans, absorb the allergens through their paws and fur, making it nearly impossible for them to escape their discomfort unless it is scrubbed off of them. Twice a week, I soak Annie’s paws in a few inches of water, rinse her coat, shampoo her with itch-controlling shampoo, wash her with fresh water, and then apply a layer of lotion made specifically for dogs, and spray her with her topical steroid spray if needed.

Because bathing is known to dry out the skin and wash away oils on the dog’s fur, it is important to keep them moisturized, bringing us back to the necessity of fish oil and the possibility of using lotion for your dog. Annie began getting dandruff on top of everything else once I started bathing her regularly, so applying lotion is a very important step in the process. I have found that Warren London Hydrating Butter for Dogs Skin and Fur is a very good lotion for much less money than most other options. And it smells absolutely amazing, which is a huge plus in my book.

Annie is starting to feel better after a good bath.

What You Can Do

Every dog is different, and every dog’s allergies are different. It is important to remember that some things will work and some won’t. It took the course of two years to figure out this detailed regimen for Annie, and she still gets rashes fairly regularly. They are MUCH better than they used to be, but they are still there. If your dog has allergies, it will probably be something that you and your dog will be dealing with for the rest of their life. I would recommend trying anything you can to help your dog be as comfortable as possible, for as long as possible.

One option that I have not yet tried is getting your dog tested to see exactly what they are allergic to. I have not done this for Annie yet because it costs about $400 a test, dogs allergies are constantly changing and evolving so one test might not be accurate for their whole lives, and the test does not tell you how to fix it or even give you a plan of action. Most allergies can be discovered with a conversation between you and your vet, but this is definitely a good option for some with even more extreme allergies than Annie has.

Presenting her beautifully clear skin.

Another option that I haven’t had a need for is Jax n’ Daisy shampoo and lotion. It is similar to the shampoo and lotion that I do use, but it is a much stronger formula that is supposed to make drastic changes very quickly. The testimonials on their website seem to speak for themselves.

The most important part of figuring out a plan to tackle your dogs allergies is to be in communication with your vet in every step along the way. If you suspect your dog might have allergies, take them to the vet. If they prescribe something that isn’t working, let them know. If you have an idea of a regimen for your dog, ask your vet about it about it and don’t begin until you get the go-ahead from them. It will take a lot of work and often a lot of money, but there are alternatives to every option out there. As you can see from the immense progress that Annie has made, the determination to make a change is worth all of this and more.

Jessica Smith, Associate Editor, having been raised in a household full of dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, and all things furry, Jessica’s love of animals has only grown over the years. She is currently volunteering for Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in her free time when she isn’t out and about with her ridiculous pit bull mix, Annabel Lee, or taking care of her remarkably ancient guinea pig, Moose. She is also putting her literature degree to use by working as an editor for a local online magazine, Independent Noise. While she has no plans for the future, she knows that it will be filled with fur and fiction galore. You can e-mail Jessica at

“Do’s & Don’ts” When Crate Training Your Pup

So, you’ve got a new puppy and along with it came all the new responsibilities of training and caring for it. Beginning from day one you and your dog are both learning about feeding, playing, and bathroom habits. However, one crucial skill you should also consider mastering with your pet is crate training.

Reasons to have your pet crate trained:

Having your dog crate trained can benefit not only the dog owners but also the dogs themselves. Many owners have busy schedules that require them to either transport their dog to and from places or leave them alone for a few hours. Having your dog in a crate during car rides or at home while you’re away can ensure that they are safe and not getting into anything they shouldn’t be. Some dogs find crates useful for reducing anxiety. It gives them a small place where they can rest and feel safe. Whatever the case may be, crate training can be a helpful skill to teach your pet.

A common myth about crate training is that it is cruel for your animal. However, this is far from the truth. Your dogs’ ancestors sought out small dens to rest in and feel safe thousands of years ago, in the wild. A crate can help facilitate that instinctual need to have a cozy area for your pet to feel protected in. For puppies and smaller dogs, this need for a small space to rest in can be even more necessary because of the overwhelming size of a home.

This pup found a comfortable spot to nap in his crate.

Although they are cute, having a puppy tends to come with the risk of them destroying your house when nobody is watching. Crating them while you’re busy gives you the confidence of knowing that your home and pet will remain just as you left them.

If you have decided that crate training your dog is the right thing for you, there are some guidelines you should follow to be successful.

Do: Find a crate that accommodates your dog according to their size

This rule can be a little tricky when you have a puppy because you want to get them a crate that they will be comfortable in as they grow. Certain dogs like bull mastiff puppies start small and weigh around 30 pounds as puppies however, they grow to weigh up to almost 200 pounds depending on their gender. Although most dogs don’t grow that large, it’s important to account for the size that your dogs breed may grow to.

If you know your dog is going to get bigger but do not want to buy too large or too small of a crate utilize crate dividers that can be found at most places where crates are sold. The dividers allow you to give your pet enough space to feel comfortable in a big crate but not enough space to roam too much or have an accident. Once they grow you can move the dividers accordingly or get rid of them all together and utilize the entire space that a bigger crate has to offer.

This beautiful German Shepard has a crate that fits him perfectly.

Don’t: Use the crate as a punishment

When crate training your dog you want to make sure they feel as comfortable as possible while being inside the crate. Associate the crate with fun by giving them a treat or a toy when they are inside of it. Place a bed or a warm blanket on the floor of the crate so your pup can lay down and rest while they spend their time inside their “room.”

Some dogs may get anxious and need rest from the chaos of family get togethers or even thunder storms. This is when you can place your dog into the crate to make them feel safe. Laying a thin blanket on top of the crate can assist with help making the crate feel more soothing and allow the pup to sleep easier. Just make sure there is still a passage for air to come in and out so you don’t suffocate your poor pup.

This little guy has plenty of toys in his crate to keep him company.

Do: Feed them meals and have water available in the crate

Training your dog to eat in the crate can help substantially when it comes to getting them comfortable with the space. Allow some time for your pet to sniff around the crate and get familiar with their surroundings before putting the food bowl into the crate. Encouraging them to step in and eat while closing the door behind them quietly will take some stress away from the situation. Once they have finished eating let them out and let them know that you are happy with them. The more you practice feeding your dog in the crate the safer they will feel when the times comes to go in.

Don’t: Leave your dog in a crate for more than 3 or 4 hours

The crate isn’t meant to imprison your pet. It should be used only when needed otherwise your dog will grow to dislike the crate and may refuse to get in. Puppies especially should not be forced to stay in a crate for long periods of time because of their smaller bladders. Older dogs can physically hold it for up to around 7 hours but should not be forced to unless necessary. Keeping your puppy in a confined space for too long could result in them soiling their bed causing discomfort and a mess for you to clean up. Avoid this by simply taking your pup out of the crate frequently for bathroom breaks. If you are unable to supervise your puppy while they are in the crate you may need to change your schedule around or ask for help.

Every dog is different. Its important to find a crate that is the most suited for your dogs breed and size.

Do: Be patient

Every dog is different. It could take more or less time to successfully crate train your dog depending on their personality and anxiety level. Your dog needs a lot of encouragement and support while learning to go in and out of the crate comfortably. You may have to repeat yourself often and continue to provide treats or toys until your dog can be confident that the crate is a good place. Once they have gotten in and out of the crate a few times try closing the door and opening it to get them used to the feeling of being confined in the space. Always reassuring them with a happy tone of voice can make the transition easier and faster to get the hang of.

Don’t: Be too demanding

Your dog wants to be your best friend (usually). However, they aren’t always sure of what you want them to do. Going in and out of the crate can be confusing or cause a lot of stress for dogs that are first trying it. Be aware of this and make sure that you aren’t too demanding of your dog right off the bat. Stay enthusiastic when attempting to persuade your dog to get into the crate and don’t have such high expectations on the first day. Crate training could take weeks depending on the dog, so make sure to not be too hard on your pup if they can’t get it the first couple of tries.

Being in a crate should not be associated with punishment or stress. It should be used to give your pup a break and allow them some time to relax.

Do your research:

Don’t be afraid to search for little tips and tricks on how to work with your dog during the crate training process. Research crates and find one that’s best for you and your pet considering size, visibility, and comfort. Doing my own research I found many helpful articles from sites like the American Kennel Club, The Humane Society of the United States, and Caesars Way. Below I’ve posted some links that will help you navigate through your journey of crate training your dog.

Crate training 101

Puppy crate training made easy

How to crate train a puppy

Lazarus Gomez, Managing Editor, is an aspiring writer from Phoenix, Arizona and has been freelance writing for local newspapers.  He is currently majoring in journalism at New Mexico State University. He has always been an avid animal lover and has two large bulldogs named Levi and Diesel as well as a German Shepard named Zeus. He currently resides in Las Cruces, New Mexico and is hoping to pursue his passion in sports writing.  You can e-mail Laz at